TORONTO – Ever since returning to the Argos in 2010, General Manager Jim Barker has been very open about his philosophy on free agency. Offer him a blockbuster trade and Barker will jump with intrigue, offer up a big-name free agent and the man many call the ‘gambler’ holds his cards a little more tightly to the vest.
That isn’t to say that he won’t kick the tires a bit to see who is available come February 15 and what the asking price may be but many would agree that he is not necessarily a home run hitting G.M. come free agency.
That said, his focus remains the same as last year; pending free agents that wore Double Blue last season could be the biggest story of this year’s free agency, but for a completely different reason than last year.
The Difference A Year Makes
Last season, Barker’s primary objective was to lock up the impact players that helped make up a solid corps on his roster before the deadline. Last-second re-signings of defenders Kevin Huntley, Lin-J Shell and guard Jeff Keeping showed that Barker’s plan was to maintain the foundation built before shaking things up with high-priced signings.
This year, the philosophy may be different. Entering the off-season, the Argos had 13 potential free agents and still have some household names. The likes of Byron Parker, Kevin Eiben and Rob Murphy, among others, that may have played their last game with Toronto. Should these players walk, it would indeed signify a large change in personnel but perhaps a glimpse into what the team intends to do to fill those spots – perhaps with less expensive and more youthful options.
We at argonauts.ca don’t know for sure which ones will stay and which will walk, and by no means should this article be interpreted as Jim Barker’s views – but it is, at the very least, fun to speculate.
A complete list of Argos free agents and recent transactions can be found below:
2012 Potential Free Agents
QB Dalton Bell
DL Alex Buzbee
LB Kevin Eiben
DE Ben Ishola
OT Rob Murphy
CB Byron Parker
OC Dominic Picard
DS Willie Pile
LB Jason Pottinger
OG Taylor Robertson
The Big Splash
The free agent class of 2012 is not nearly as deep as the ones previous and big names are not nearly as frequent on this list. That said, there are a few ‘big splash’ free agents that the Boatmen could go after should they choose to be so active.
WR Andy Fantuz
Without a doubt, the most impactful name on the FA list, Fantuz is a game-breaker despite having a difficult time last season returning to the CFL after a tryout with the Chicago Bears. A non-import that has a Grey Cup ring under his belt is only one year removed from a season in which he lead the CFL in receiving. His price tag could be the biggest deterrent for the Argos considering the contract they inherited in the Ricky Ray deal.
WR Greg Carr
A tall receiver that could be used as a deep threat, Carr could add some playmaking abilities to an Argos offence in search of an import go-to receiver. His challenge could be trying to standout in a new system. In Winnipeg, he was a complimentary piece in a group that already included Terrence Edwards. He could garner more double teams as a feature receiver in another system, such as the Argos’, which could limit his production.
If the Double Blue do go the conservative route this time around, then there are a few potential candidates who might hit the open market and may be able to add both depth and competition at certain positions:
QB Alex Brink
Brink hits free agency coming off a season that he finally took advantage of his “live bullets”, acting as an admirable replacement for an injured Buck Pierce and Winnipeg’s original number two pivot Joey Ellliott. Pierce is now locked up long-term, fresh off a Grey Cup appearance, and Elliott is again healthy and has a brand new contract. Brink could be a young understudy that could help flush out the backup quarterbacks behind Ray in Toronto. Editor’s Note: Brink signed a new deal with Winnipeg on February 13
OL Marc Parenteau
An 8-year CFL veteran, Parenteau is best remembered for his unique touchdown celebration in the 2010 Grey Cup but could be a big pickup for any team looking to solidify Canadian talent along the offensive line.After spending the last five seasons in Saskatchewan, the Riders released the former Boston College grad last week.With Taylor Robertson, Dominic Picard and Rob Murphy potentially hitting the open market, Parentau could help fill some voids left along the line. Editor’s Note: Parenteau signed with the Argos on February 13
RB Jamall Lee
Highly touted coming out of Bishop’s, Lee has been a reliable non-import in the defending Grey Cup champion BC Lions’ offence. His versatility could intrigue the Argos as a change of pace back or a dependable backup to Andre Durie in his hybrid running back/slotback position. Editor’s Note: Lee announced his retirement on February 13
**The ideas and thoughts in the preceding text in no way reflect the thoughts, ideas or opinions of the Toronto Argonauts football operations staff.**